In just over three weeks the winning franchise owner will lift the Vince Lombardi trophy aloft to signify his side’s victory in, what American’s refer to as, the world’s biggest sporting event.
Back in September 32 teams began the NFL season and now, following the Wild Card play-offs last weekend, just eight remain in the hunt. Of those eight, five have recent Super Bowl experience, with the New England Patriots, led by their iconic quarterback Tom Brady, the most successful. The Pats have won three Super Bowls, in 2002, 2004, and 2005. Hot on their heels are the Pittsburgh Steelers with two recent wins, in 2006 and 2009.
Of the remaining teams, the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, and Chicago Bears have all experienced Super Bowls in their recent history, while the Baltimore Ravens have featured in the show piece event just once, in 2000, when they were victorious. The least experienced of the sides are the Green Bay Packers followed by the New York Jets.
Green Bay last got their hands on the trophy in 1996 under the leadership of star quarterback Brett Favre, under whom they also reached the final stage the very next season, only to miss out to the Denver Broncos. The Jets history is even more spars, having no recent Super Bowl success of heart break. Their one and only appearance was way back in 1968 when they went away having won Super Bowl III.
This post-season, Baltimore take on Pittsburgh while the Jets face the Patriots. The victors in each of the matches this weekend will face each other in the AFC Conference Championship match, the winners of which will progress to Super Bowl XLV to take on the winners of the NFC Championship match at Cowboys Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington Texas. In the NFC, Green Bay face Atlanta and Seattle take on Chicago.
The favourites for progress all the way and lift the Super Bowl for the fourth time in their history are New England. Having started slowly this season, losing their second match to the Jets, their division rivals, and then beating the Buffalo Bills 38-30 the next week, they then went on a near perfect run, losing just once more in the regular season to finish as top seeds with a record of 14 wins and just two losses. That run included a crushing 45-3 victory in the return match against the Jets, making their match in the play-offs, again at the Pats Gillette Stadium the third matchup of the season for these two sides.
Pittsburgh, led by two times Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, may have something to say about that however, having themselves gone on a 12-4 season in which they won six of their final seven matches. However, what will be a worry for Ben’s men is that they managed to come unstuck to the Jets at home in their season run in.
From the NFC the best bets look to be the Chicago Bears, who finished with an 11-5 season but none the less came top of their division, as well as the Seattle Seahawks, who beat current Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints, 41-36 in the Wild Card play-offs last week.
None the less, the AFC looks much stronger than the NFC, as has been the case for a number of seasons, and therefore it would seem that this season’s champions will come from the AFC and the winner of what looks likely to be a Patriots versus Steelers AFC Conference Championship match.
However, before that we still have the Divisional Play-offs to come, starting tonight with Baltimore v Pittsburgh and Green Bay v Atlanta. These are followed by the New York Jets v New England and Seattle v Chicago.